The Five Pillars of a Successful Pitch
Our last Virtual Pitch Challenge was such a success that we decided to host another one, and WOW we were we blown away by the responses. It was abundantly clear that everyone who submitted took the advice from our last pitch panel and applied it to their pitches this round. We were amazed at the quality, creativity, and ingenuity of these pitches. It was nearly impossible to choose the winners, and we went so far as to include both finalists and honorable mentions, and we think you’ll agree with us about why we had to include everyone when you watch the pitches below.
Inspired by Jethro Rothe-Kushel's "five pillars for writers", here is our take on the "five pillars for pitching":
- Strong Script/Portfolio:
First and foremost, you need to have a strong script and a winning premise. Be sure your script is in tip/top shape before you start pitching to the top players. If they like your pitch, and they ask to see the script, be ready to hand it to them right then and there. Sometimes you might just be pitching an idea, and that’s okay, but be sure it’s fully fleshed out in your mind, and be prepared to answer any questions they might have. It’s also important to be able to point them to any other work that you’ve done. The more you can sell yourself as a professional, established writer, the better!
- Multiple Pitches or Viable Project Ideas:
As a writer, you need to go into the room prepared to pitch the script you’re working on, and you also need to be ready to spout off your other ideas at a moment’s notice. Executives and producers aren’t looking for a “one trick pony”, they want someone that they can continue to build a relationship and work with, so it’s important to have several ideas ready to go. We recommend you jot down your top 3 ideas before a pitch, so they are in the back of your mind in case a producer or exec asks for them.
- In The Room Skills:
Most producers and executives understand that you’re writers, not actors, but you still need to have good "in the room skills" and be able to hook whoever is listening to your pitch. To accomplish this, it’s best to do your pitch as if you’re talking to a best friend. The more personal, authentic, and human you can be, the better! Executives want to work with writers they like, so this is your first opportunity to show them your personality. Make sure to pitch wherever you go. We often get asked “when is the best time to pitch?” and the answer is: always. Pitch to friends, family, or anyone who will listen. The more you pitch, the more you will improve and develop those necessary “in the room skills”.
- Your Characters:
During a pitch, it’s all about character, character, character. Why should we want to follow these characters? What makes them so interesting? Bring us into your story through your unique characters and be sure those characters have a story arc of their own. If this is a feature, why would someone want to spend 2 hours watching these characters? And if it’s a TV series, what makes these characters compelling enough to continue watching over multiple seasons? How will they evolve? What will they grapple with? How does this relate to society today? Be sure you’re able to answer these questions for yourself before you go into pitch.
- Your Brand or Creative Voice:
The number one most important part of the pitch, or that ”extra special sauce” as we like to call it, is YOU. Anyone can tell a story, but what makes YOU the right person to tell this story. It’s important to convey your personal relationship with the story and why you are the ONLY one who can tell it. We recommend establishing your personal connection or tie to the story at the very beginning of your pitch. You want to draw the audience in, get them excited about YOU, and then hit them with the pitch.
One last note! If you feel like your pitch isn’t going well or your audience isn’t engaged, consider stopping to ask a question or just be extremely honest and ask “how can I get you back engaged again?” It takes real guts to stop a pitch, but as we mentioned before, producers are looking for honesty and a human connection. What’s more honest than stopping a pitch to ask “how can I win you back?”
Virtual Pitch Winners
Steve Blame - Major Hacker's War
Garrett Vander Leun - Lady Rebekkah
Yolanda T. Ross - We are Here
Crystal Harris - In My Head
Sophia Costanzo - Good Cuban Girls Don't go out in the Rain with Wet Hair
Michael Klug - Trip
Daniel Shar - Go Ahead and Die
Ky-Gan Teng - Jho Low
Damian Wampler - Monitor
Ariane Hahusseau - The Egyptian Casanova
Joey Kent - Kennonwood
Christine Freschi - Group Therapy
Tonya Vann - Soulfunny
Katie Cronin - The Au Pair Dare
Brandon Krajewski - I Enjoy Being a Girl!
Adrienne Thorne - Studs
Kyle Wilson - Our Fathers
Wendy Jean Wilkins - Where The Men Are
Shaquille William - VODUN
Norm Fassbender & Kate Holowach - Quantum Betty
Motown Maurice - Eleven Thirty-Five
Corey Wright - The Therapist